A man who fired into a Philadelphia home in 2019, killing a 2-year-old girl as her mother held her in her arms, has been sentenced to decades behind bars.
Tayvon Thomas, 27, was sentenced Thursday to 55-110 years in prison for the killing of Nikolette Rivera, as well as another shooting on the same day and a later attack on three prison guards.
Thomas pleaded guilty to third-degree murder earlier this year, admitting he fired bullets from an AK-47 into Rivera’s Kensington row home while he and another man, Freddie Perez, targeted her father in a drug dispute. The shooting also wounded Rivera’s mother, Joan Ortiz, and a carpet cleaner who was inside.
“I spent so much time locked in a room asking why, or what if I could have moved more quickly,” Ortiz told NBC10 following the sentencing.
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Prosecutors said that Thomas and Perez wanted retribution on the drug group they belonged to, feeling it “didn’t have their back” after they were arrested on drug charges, NBC10 partner KYW Newsradio reported.
On Oct. 20, 2019, the two first fired at a home on the 400 block of East Clearfield Street, about half a mile away from Rivera’s home, but did not strike anyone. They then headed to Water Street, where they shot Rivera in the head, mistakenly believing her father was inside the home at the time, prosecutors said.
Thomas’ sentence was imposed for both shootings, as well as the May 2020 stabbing of three prison guards. Prosecutors said Thomas clogged the toilet and flooded his cell to lure the guards, at which point he stabbed all three with a shank, KYW reported.
Ortiz, Rivera’s mother, said that while her daughter’s killing irrevocably altered her life, she forgives Thomas.
“I forgave him for me, for my peace, for the peace of my daughter. Though what he did was terrible – he completely changed my life – I don’t hate him,” she told NBC10.
Perez is expected to be sentenced next month.
There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.